In Canada, wealthy couple Rod Baker, 55, CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp, and his wife Ekaterina, 32, have been caught faking their identities in order to steal COVID-19 vaccine doses intended for elderly Indigenous people.
To do so, the couple broke lockdown and quarantine guidelines to take a private jet from their home in Vancouver to the remote community of Beaver Creek, deep in the remote Yukon region.
The area is home to as few as 100 people, the majority being ageing Indigenous people of the White River First Nation. Given the area’s remote location a 5-hour drive away from the nearest hospital, Yukon health workers have prioritised vaccination efforts there.
To claim their shots, the couple posed as new hires at a local motel. After receiving the shots of the Moderna vaccine, the couple stupidly asked for a lift to the airport, immediately causing locals to grow suspicious.
That’s when health workers checked with the motel, discovering the couple’s ruse. They alerted the authorities who uncovered the couple’s true identity and intercepted them as they were preparing to fly back to their luxury condo in Vancouver.
Canadian media outlets have reported that they each face fines totalling $900 for violating quarantine guidelines, but there is not yet a fine in place for the fact they unfairly took doses they were not entitled to.
Investors revealed that Baker earned more than $10.6 million in 2019 as CEO and president of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns more than 20 casinos across Canada and is also currently the subject of a separate money-laundering scandal.
He resigned Sunday after charges were filed. The police admitted to News1130 that “the fact the individual lost a $10 million a year job” was probably a bigger penalty than anything his office could impose.
But Janet Vander Meer, the head of the White River First Nation’s coronavirus response team, argues that the couple should be held accountable in a way that will deter other Canadians from trying to pull the same plot.
In a Monday statement, she called the incident “another example of ongoing acts of oppression against Indigenous communities by wealthy individuals that thought they would get away with it,” and pointed out that the breach of quarantine guidelines could have put vulnerable elders at risk.
“Our oldest resident of Beaver Creek, who is 88 years old, was in the same room as this couple. My mom, who’s palliative, was in the same room as this couple,” she told Globalnews.ca on Monday. “That’s got to be jail time.”
Other members of the White River First Nation want to see stiffer penalties for the couple, as $900 is a relatively meaningless fine to such wealthy people.
When local newspaper Yukon News broke the story on Monday evening, the response was overwhelming outrage from members of the community and the wider world, with users sharing “as if someone who can charter a plane is concerned with a $900 fine.” and “community service is a better fine.. let them clean up the highway [sic]”.
What do we think?
It is a real shame that this couple pulled off their scheme of getting the vaccine – no fine will be able to undo what happened and give their doses back to the vulnerable people who deserve to be prioritised.
It’s also disappointing that, as a casino executive, the crime here further perpetuates the stereotype that people who work in the Gambling industry lack a moral compass and involve themselves with shady dealings. But then again, benevolent, philanthropic industry leaders rarely make big headlines or Hollywood movie plots!